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DEREK VAN DIEST: A trip to World Cup final would put semifinal heartbreak in Canada to rest for England

- Reuters

LYON, France — Four years ago in Edmonton, England kicked itself out of the Women’s World Cup.

Defender Laura Bassett scored an own goal two minutes into second-half injury time in the semifinal against Japan to knock England out of the tournament.

Now at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, England is in the semifinal again, this time facing defending champion United States at the Stade de Lyon on Tuesday where the Lionesses are looking to finally put the disappointment in Canada behind them.

“You always take more from losses and bad things than you ever will from winning,” said England defender Lucy Bronze, who was in Edmonton four years ago. “There is no more of a brutal game than to have lost a game the way we did; in World Cup semifinal of all things.

“I think from that we’ve learned more than anybody could ever learn from any other defeat or from any other game that we played in, which is why we probably are a little more resilient. We are firm believers in ourselves, we have a coach that believes and the entire FA believes in us as does our nation, because we’ve been there before, we’ve had that resilience and people know how much we care and how much we’ve given to get to the last four and to the semifinal, and we want to give more to get to the final.”

Bassett was trying to break up a centring cross from Japan midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi and ended up poking the ball up over goalkeeper Karen Bardsley off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net. It was a devastating way to lose a game with only seconds remaining before extra time.

To their credit, England went on to defeat Germany in the third-place game, also in Edmonton, a few days later.

England has become accustomed to seeing its teams reach the seminal stage with the men being knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia in the semifinal four a year ago in Russia.

It is the third consecutive time the Lionesses have made it to a major tournament semifinal, also getting to the stage at the European Championships in 2017, losing to the Netherlands 3-0.

An English team has not made to the final of a World Cup tournament since the men won it at home in 1966. The England women’s only appearance at a major final was in 2005 at the European Championships, losing 6-2 to Germany.

“I think that’s what we said at the beginning of this tournament that we’ve had back-to-back semifinals, which is an amazing feat for this team and an amazing achievement to be able to do on a consistent basis” Bronze said. “We’re short of that last step, but we still have that hunger and especially now, we’ve will have more hunger of all of the teams because we’re the only ones of the teams left that have not reached a final.

“You look at the Olympics, the Euros, and World Cup, the other three teams have all reached finals in recent years, so we probably have that edge where we are a little bit more hungry for it and we are a little more destined and wanting to go to a final in that respect. But it definitely takes more and we know that it’ll take more for a team that has been knocked out of two-consecutive semifinals.”

Getting to the final at this tournament will not be easy. The United States is still considered the favourites and are coming off an impressive 2-1 win against the host France in the quarterfinal Friday in Paris.

The Americans are the No. 1-ranked team in the world and it will take something special to dethrone them.

“We have full belief in our squad and the focus is literally just on us and that’s our mentality,” said England centreback Millie Bright. “I think we’re all born winners, that’s our mentality, we came here to win the World Cup and that’s still our aim. Obviously, it would be disappointing to lose and as players, we would see that as potentially a failure.”

England has played well getting to the final four. They finished first in Group D, defeating Scotland 2-1, Argentina 1-0, and Japan 2-0. England then beat Cameroon 3-0 in the second round and Norway 3-0 in the quarterfinal.

England last played the United States in March at the She Believes Cup in Nashville, tying 2-2. In the buildup to the World Cup this year England’s only losses were to Canada on a goal from Christine Sinclair in Manchester, and then 1-0 to New Zealand in Brighton and Hove.

England believes they have the team capable of beating the United States and going on to win the tournament, where either Sweden or Netherlands await in the final. If anything, England is likely the only side in the tournament who can match the speed, strength and physicality of the United States.

“Our mentality is to win it and anything less, we’d be disappointed in ourselves,” Bright said. “Hopefully, that’s not going to be the case.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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